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Foundation degrees gaining ground


Vocational education received a major boost today as the Department for Education and Skills announced it had exceeded its target for 4,000 students to start the foundation degree, the new work-based degree qualification, by Autumn 2001. In fact, 4229 students have started foundation degrees – work-based degree qualifications backed by industry to provide the specialist skills that modern workplaces demand. More than 70 foundation degree courses ranging from e-business to multi media design are now available at 90 institutions around the country. This will be seen as a boost for the government's plans to raise the status of vocational education.

Lifelong Learning and Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge said: "There is a growing demand for vocational courses from students and businesses and it’s a win-win situation for everybody. Universities attract students, businesses get the skilled people they need, and individuals who successfully complete their courses get a passport to a good job. Detailed analysis shows that we have attracted non-traditional entrants to higher education though the foundation degree route. More than 52% accessed foundation degrees with vocational or work-based qualifications. Expanding initiatives like this is not about dumbing-down higher education. It is quite the opposite. It’s about raising the skills of people vital to our productivity and growth agenda. A recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that retention rates on foundation degrees are strong. The average retention rate for the first semester stands at 95%, which compares favourably with other higher education provision."

Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI said: "Demand for the first foundation degree courses is encouraging. Greater
collaboration between business and the higher education sector is good news. To deliver high value qualifications - whether academic or vocational - universities and further
education institutions must understand the needs of employers and potential students. A flexible, customer focused approach will enable both businesses and individuals to make full use of higher education opportunities."

Nigel Griffiths, Minister for small business added: "We are fired by two overriding considerations: how we maintain our position as the 4th largest economy in the world; and our passion for education: for education's sake, as a path out of poverty, as a mechanism for individual fulfilment and enrichment, and as a crucial component of our future economic success."

Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Learning and Skills Council said: "The better than expected take up of foundation degrees underlines the importance of the LSC's work with employers in establishing a new national framework for apprenticeships, and providing a clear and straightforward progression route from Advanced Modern Apprenticeships to higher education. Young people can advance their professional careers and build their occupational skills and knowledge through the apprenticeship route leading to foundation degrees and higher education. The work related route to higher education also means that business has a recognised and accredited way of attracting and retaining bright young talent to help fill its skill shortages."


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